Demon Gates (Helena Hawthorn Series #2)

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A Bird In A Cage

Helena relaxed on the sofa. A blood bag, which Ben brought back from an unknown source, remained hooked up to her vein through an IV. With a blank expression, she stared at the plastic bag resting on the back of the sofa, deflating over time.

Ever since Alexander took Lucious mere hours ago, she couldn’t shake the longing. It clung to her like an unwanted odour. Was he doing well? He has to be. He’s a vampire, and he will heal. For some reason, such words no longer brought comfort to her. What remained—what held her together—was the fact that the link was stationary. It meant he was strong enough to keep her out of his mental shields.

Maya plopped on the sofa next to her and eyed Helena. “Don’t look so glum, sis. Things will work out once we get the blade from Reaver.”

Helena faced her, uncertainty overturning her gut. “Are you sure about that? How do we get to Lazarus once we have the blade?”

Maya’s eyes sought out Ben who was at the kitchen island, putting together a sandwich. Excitement evaporated from her face as she said, “Whatever it takes. The demon plays games with us because he sees us as weak, and we are anything but. We are survivors.”

“With Lazarus, we don’t know what to expect. He had a long time to plan his game whilst we were following his rules, waiting for him to pluck us from reality.”

Maya’s expression hardened. “Do you know why we can’t lose this fight against the demon?”

Helena shook her head.

“Because I’ve not killed every last one of those monsters out there. They should pay for their sins.”

Helena spoke in a strained voice, “Does that include me?”

Ever since she cast a successful spell, she didn’t know what it meant. Would the hunters see her as a creature to slay? The concept that she can do magic baffled her, and Michael never mentioned her having such abilities. But, it wouldn’t be the first time her guardian angel kept things from her.

Maya smiled and extracted herself from the sofa. “Your IV is pretty much done. Let’s get on with the training.”

After Maya removed the needle from her vein with care, she put a pink plaster where it used to be. With another mysterious smile, Maya took her hand. She led Helena to the available space between the hallway and the sofas. There was enough room for the two of them to move around without restriction.

“So, have you ever learned any martial arts?” Maya circled Helena, looking her over.

“No.”

Maya stopped behind her and grasped Helena’s upper arms. “You don’t have much muscle mass either. You’re all skin and bone. What’s the point of having a body if you’re not using it?”

“I don’t like exercise,” she admitted and separated from Maya’s grabbing hands.

The hunter glanced over her shoulder at Ben. He was watching them and eating his sandwich in silence. “What will be the best training for the short time we have?”

He swallowed what was in his mouth. “You shouldn’t skip any training, Maya. You know that. If she was my student, I would start off with strength training and cardio for the first few days. After that, you can ease her into the S-class workouts.”

“S-class?” Helena asked.

“Spartan,” Maya clarified.

Helena studied them both. What kind of training were they planning to put her through?

Maya pointed upstairs. “We should change into something else. Jeans are not the best for jogging.”

“I don’t have any tracksuits.”

“What about the room that reeks of girliness? Does your roommate own any?”

Her question made Helena’s thoughts revert to Laura. They had been together since secondary school. Laura was like the sun Helena could never reach. Her friend always tried new things, signed up to new sports, and never complained about anything. How could a girl so bright, caring, and fun-loving be a witch or a hunter?

“Are there any hunters in the area that you know of?” Helena asked.

Maya shot Ben a nervous glance. “Why do you ask?”

“I’m a tad bit curious.”

Taking her hand, Maya ushered her upstairs. They entered Laura’s bedroom. Without hesitation, Maya marched to the built-in wardrobe and opened its doors.

Helena crossed her arms. “Aren’t you going to answer my question?”

Maya pulled out a bunch of tops and moved on to the messy pile of trousers, jeans, and tracksuit bottoms wrapped together into a ball on the middle shelf.

Helena assessed the mess Laura had in her room and shook her head. How could she find anything when she needed it?

Having selected what she wanted out of the wardrobe, Maya tossed a black tank top and grey yoga pants at her. “Put those on.”

“Not until you answer my question.”

Maya’s eyes narrowed. She cautiously sat on Laura’s unmade bed. “I am apprehensive about the hunter topic, Helena.”

“Why?”

She touched the necklace Helena had to part with. Her fingers played with the clouded amber stone as she stared at the floor. “We are not sanctioned to be here. If any of the local hunter clans find out we have entered their territory without permission, we’ll have to face a trial.”

There was no emotion in Maya’s tone and it hurt Helena to see her like that. She lowered her arms to her sides while clutching the clothes in her right hand. “Shouldn’t the hunters be free to move around?”

“You’d think that, wouldn’t you? We are as territorial as the Vampire Councils, but if one of the clans was to request our help, we would do that for a fee.”

Helena’s brows shot up. “You charge people for your help?”

“How else are we supposed to make money? There is no universal hunter club. We are individual groups with different training, beliefs, and backgrounds. Some become hunters because they lose someone important to them. Some, because they want to make a difference. The others serve because their parents bred them that way. Bred hunters are the best and the worst of us.”

“What do you mean?”

Maya’s eyes flashed with fear. “I saw a bred hunter in a battle against a Class 3 vampire and a ghoul once. After the death of its master, the ghoul becomes a pretty docile creature, but this man was as cruel as the creatures we hunt. Instead of taking the monster out immediately, he secured it with silver chains and cut pieces off, watching them grow back. The ghoul cried, wailed, and begged him to stop. He didn’t. He said it was for research, but I knew better…” She shuddered. “There is a point when a vampire or ghoul becomes so drained that they start to heal at a human rate. That’s where he let it bleed to death from hundreds of tiny cuts and chunks of missing flesh. Only after that, the monster finally shrivelled up and died.”

Helena’s gut churned at the idea of such torture. No one should suffer like that, whatever they are. “That’s awful.”

“He is the leader of the South American hunters. I doubt you’ll see him because he almost never leaves his territory but, if you do, I suggest you keep the fact you can do magic a secret. Right now, you don’t smell like a witch. He’ll leave you alone.”

Helena sat next to Maya on the bed. “Hunters can smell witches, too?”

Maya let out a soft laugh. “Your vampire seems to tell you things, I guess. Yes. Since a few centuries ago, we decided to train all of our senses. Witches use herbs and chemicals, allowing us to distinguish them from humans. After a while, they got smart and used their magic to disguise their scent.” She stood and pointed at the clothes in Helena’s hand. “We don’t have any more time to waste on chit-chat. Change, we’re going jogging.”

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